Monday, July 21, 2008

I Think of You ...Book Review

Brilliant collection of Short Stories by Ahdaf Souief. I bought the book thinking it was new but as the stories felt familiar. After a while I realized this is just the American publishing of Ahdaf’s short stories from her very first book Aisha and also from Sand Piper.
As I read or re-read these stories, I thoroughly enjoyed them. Most of the characters were resurrected in Ahdaf Souif’s masterpiece “In the Eye of the Sun”.
What I love about Ahdaf Souief is the most, is that she appear to write mostly for herself, she is not a marketing oriented author, she is not writing to be accessed by as large an audience as possible. You need to want to get into her own world; you need to try to understand her language, her pace and her approach. The reader needs to work at it to get to see the beauty of the language, the characters and ultimately the novel. I have never read anyone better than Souif when it comes to a true and genuine bi-cultural sensibility, her skill with the language and her intelligence in writing are truly remarkable.
21 July 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On Obama by American Muslim High School Student

What Obama and McCain owe American Muslims
by Mohammed Hussain
Mohammed Hussain will be a senior at Lincoln-Sudbury High School this fall.

Over the past few weeks, the national media has focused on the relationship between the presidential candidates and one minority group - that of American Muslims. Articles and opinion pieces in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the LA Times, with titles such as "Muslims Detect a Snub from Obama," "Let Muslims share the stage," and "Obama and Islam," have focused specifically on the Democratic candidate.

Although many American Muslims see Senator Obama's historic candidacy as hope for change, they are also troubled by the distance he seems to keep from them. Volunteers at a rally moved two Muslim women wearing hijab, the headscarf worn by many Muslim women, from behind him, his aides turned down offers to campaign from Representative Keith Ellison, a Muslim, and, despite many invitations, Obama has yet to publicly visit a mosque. Senator McCain's record may be worse. Now, many Muslims themselves are questioning their place, or lack thereof, in the American political system and in the ongoing campaign.

If one is to look only at principle, Senators Obama and McCain should acknowledge the importance of Muslims as voters, be it by a symbolic visit to a mosque or whatever. Obama has stated that he does not oppose Islam and accepts Muslims, many of whom strongly support him. But he has not acted beyond the podium. By intentionally avoiding a group, its opinion, and its collective support, at least in public, after accepting it as part of the American fabric, Obama and McCain are being undemocratic, sidestepping the people so they can play the political game. A politician cannot consider it right to ignore a group who, if elected, he/she will be obligated to represent.

Unfortunately, public perception prevents both candidates from recognizing the political role of American Muslims. As a result of the scare tactics and wedge politics used today, the candidate who associates with Muslims will be penalized. While some fight against these methods, they do so to change the political system, rather than to support the civic rights of a group.

Misunderstanding still reigns as many Americans are unaware that mainstream Muslims, including national organizations such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council, have for years and years publicly denounced terrorism in the strongest language possible. However, the media has diverted Americans away from this truth, creating the current image and political climate of fear and suspicion. If Obama or McCain tries to alter the American public's perception of Muslims, he will most likely lose. Even if we desire it of him, Obama should not reach out to Muslims merely to "rock the boat" - even if the boat has already capsized. We, as Muslims and Americans, hope for change, for a sway toward understanding, but until that happens, those running for office will not politically associate with us.

As Muslims, it's frustrating to have our voices ignored by a candidate many of us support, because his opponents will rely on the public's ignorance to attack him and because he does not have enough public support to defend himself or the truth. Unfortunately, we, and Obama, know the consequences if he does act to involve us. If Senator Obama tries to work against public opinion now, he may lose the election and the opportunity to change public perception and policy as president. Does one accept injustice in order to bring about greater justice later? I would not like to think so, but it looks as if that is the only option now for American Muslims.

Mohammed Hussain will be a senior at Lincoln-Sudbury High School this fall.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Israel-Palestine Quiz?

By Jeffrey Rudolph

18 June, 2008

The Israel-Palestine conflict resonates deeply with many people. Opinions are sharply divided and generally unchangeable. However, as a member of a mainstream Israeli peace group, I often encounter opinionated people who are ignorant of many basic facts. And, while much concerning the conflict remains disputed, there are important, undisputed facts which must underlie any coherent opinion.

Therefore, in the spirit of Senator Daniel Moynihan of New York, who used to remind people that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” I have designed the below quiz which may lead some to re-examine their misconceived opinions. (Indeed, I will deem the quiz a success if it merely reduces the number of times I hear the common refrains of: “the land was empty before the Jews came” and “Barak made a generous offer at Camp David.”)

While it is undoubtedly true that carefully selected facts alone do not constitute an informed opinion, answers to the following questions should not be ignored if one is to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict. And, while a strong commitment to a cause can blind some people to contrary facts, I appeal to such people through the words of the famous British Economist, John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”


1. Who wrote the following in 1891? “We abroad are used to believing Eretz Yisrael is now almost totally desolate, a desert that is not sowed, and anyone who wishes to purchase land there may come and purchase as much as he desires. But in truth this is not the case. Throughout the country, it is difficult to find fields that are not sowed. Only sand dunes and stony mountains that are not fit to grow anything but fruit trees – and this only after hard labour and great expense …”

Answer: Ahad Ha'Am: Liberal Russian Jewish thinker and a leading Eastern European Jewish essayist

2. Who declared the following in 1930? “Land is the most necessary thing for our establishing roots in Palestine. Since there are hardly any more arable unsettled lands in Palestine, we are bound in each case of the purchase of land and its settlement to remove the peasants who cultivated the land so far, both owners of the land and tenants.”

Answer: Dr. Arthur Ruppin: Head of the Zionists’ Land Settlement Department and the foremost land expert of the Jewish Agency.

3. Who, in 1919, wrote the following, in a secret memorandum submitted to the British Cabinet? “For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country [i.e., we do not accept the principle of self-determination for the Arabs of Palestine] … the four great powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land …”

Answer: Lord Balfour: As British Foreign Secretary, he was responsible for the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which promised Zionists a national home in Palestine.

4. According to Mandatory Palestines first modern Census, conducted in 1922, approximately what percentage of the total population were Jews?

Answer: 11%.

5. Approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestines inhabitants were Jews in 1947?

Answer: 37%.

6. Approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestines land was allocated for the Jewish state by the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan (which supported the division of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state)?

Answer: 56%.

7. Approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestines land was owned by Jews at the time of the 1947 UN Partition Plan?

Answer: 7%: Perhaps Arab rejection of the Partition Plan is more understandable when it is recognized that 37% of the population was given 56% percent of the land of which they owned only 7%.

8. Which state, the Jewish State or Arab State, was to include Jerusalem according to the 1947 UN Partition Plan?

Answer: Neither.

9. During the 1948-49 War, approximately how many Arabs fled or were ejected from the areas that became the Jewish state?

Answer: 700,000. Only 150,000 Arabs remained in Israel at the war’s end.

10. After the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War, approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestines land was part of the Jewish state?

Answer: 78%.

11. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, what percentage of Mandatory Palestines land was part of, or occupied by, Israel?

Answer: 100%.

12. Which future prime minister of Israel wrote the following in October 1937? “My assumption is that … a partial Jewish state is not an end but a beginning … and it will serve as a powerful lever in our historical efforts to redeem the whole of the country.”

Answer: Ben-Gurion, in a letter to his son, Amos.

13. From Israel's victory in the 1967 War to the Likud's electoral victory in 1977, approximately how many Jewish settlers migrated to East Jerusalem and to the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Answer: 38,000.

14. At the time of the signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles in September 1993, approximately how many Jewish settlers lived in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?

Answer: 267,000.

15. When the Camp David Summit began in July 2000, approximately how many Jewish settlers lived in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?

Answer: 365,000: Yet, the Oslo 2 Accords specified that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”

16. In 2007, approximately how many Jewish settlers and how many Palestinians lived in Hebron?

Answer: 500 and 170,000, respectively.

17. Approximately what percentage of West Bank land is consumed by Israeli settlements and related infrastructure such as a separate road network for Israeli settlers and the Wall?

Answer: 40%.

18. Approximately how many Lebanese civilians were killed by Israel during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon?

Answer: 10,000.

19. Approximately how many cluster sub-munitions (bomblets) were dropped by Israel on Lebanon in the last few days of the 2006 Lebanon confrontation?

Answer: Four million bomblets were contained in hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs. The following was stated by the UN humanitarian Chief, Jan Egeland, soon after the war ended: “What is shocking and completely immoral is 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution …” According to the UN mine action coordination centre for South Lebanon, by Dec 19, 2006, 18 people had been killed and 145 injured since the ceasefire in August.

20. Who said the following in 1998? "If I were a young Palestinian, it is possible I would join a terrorist organization."

Answer: Ehud Barak: Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 – 2001.

21. Who wrote the following September 18, 1967 Top Secret memo, concerning Settlement in the Administered (or Occupied) Territories, to Mr. Adi Yafeh, Political Secretary of the Prime Minister of Israel? “As per your request ... I hereby provide you a copy of my memorandum of September 14, 1967, which I presented to the Foreign Minister. My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the Administered Territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Answer: Theodor Meron: One of the world's most eminent international jurists; and in 1967 he was a legal adviser at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Meron's clear recommendation was that the prohibition was "categorical and aimed at preventing colonisation of conquered territory by citizens of the conquering state."

22. Who wrote the following passage, in an article in one of Israel’s leading newspapers, in 2002? “The Six-Day War was forced upon us; however, the war's seventh day, which began on June 12, 1967 and has continued to this day, is the product of our choice. We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the Occupied Territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the Occupied Territories, we developed two judicial systems: one - progressive, liberal - in Israel; and the other - cruel, injurious - in the Occupied Territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day.”

Answer: Michael Ben-Yair: Israel's Attorney-General, 1993-1996.

23. Who wrote the following passage in his 2006 book? “For, regardless of party loyalties and according to most studies, the overwhelming majority of Israelis would support a peace settlement that is based on the Clinton parameters--two states, withdrawal from territories, massive dismantling of settlements, two capitals in Jerusalem--but they trust neither their political system nor, of course, the Palestinian leadership to come to an accommodation on that basis. Which may explain the results of a poll conducted in 2002 by the Steinmetz Centre for Peace at Tel Aviv University indicating that, convinced of the incapacity of their political system to produce solutions, 67% of Israeli Jews would support an American effort to recruit an international alliance that would coax the parties into endorsing such a settlement.”

Answer: Shlomo Ben-Ami: Israel’s Minister of Public Security in 1999, Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2000-2001, and Israel’s top negotiator at Camp David and Taba negotiations.

24. Who stated the following on Democracy Now! a news program, on February 14, 2006? “…Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well. … But Taba is [another matter] …”

Answer: Shlomo Ben-Ami: As Israel’s lead negotiator at the negotiations, he should know.

25. Who said the following? "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail."

Answer: Rabbi Yaacov Perrin: Stated at his eulogy of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the American Jewish settler who, on February 25, 1994, entered the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron and opened fire on Muslim worshippers praying. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed and many more wounded. In the riots that followed the massacre, another 9 Palestinians were killed.

Jeffrey Rudolph was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network in the 1990s, and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He is currently a member of Canadian Friends of Peace Now.